I had the most beautiful view in the world. I sat on the Na Pali Coast in Kaui, Hawaii, staring out over the immensity of the Pacific Ocean. I had just finished hiking the twelve-mile Kalalau Trail to a remote beach hidden from the world. I had no responsibilities, no interruptions, and no kids. I was free. Or was I?
While the view was breathtaking and the tranquility amazing, there was something missing. The ones I loved most in this world, my wife and kids, were thousands of miles away in Michigan. My heart longed to share the experience with them. It reminded me that freedom in life has less to do with my circumstances and more to do with the relationships in my life.
This past weekend, as we dove into 1 John 4, Ben Snyder pointed out that we will not experience freedom in life without love. In fact, freedom in life grows as we love others the way God loves us.
1 John 4:9-10
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
We see God’s love displayed in the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus loved us by sacrificing himself, his preferences, his comfort, and ultimately his life, for the good of others – for us. As you move on in the passage, the Apostle John reveals that our freedom will grow proportionally with how much we love others the way God loves us.
1 John 4:16b-18a
16b God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18a Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.
Loving others the way God loves us isn’t easy. It requires sacrificing many of our own wants and desires for the good of others. The temptation that we can find ourselves confronted with is to use others for our own benefit, which is ultimately selfish and unloving. In a sense, true freedom seems counterintuitive to our conventional way of thinking. By seeking what is easiest and most convenient for me, I’ll often lead myself further away from freedom. But by laying down my life and putting others first, I’ll actually begin to experience movement toward freedom. It boils down to the cycle that Ben described last weekend: You will not experience freedom in life without love. You will not experience freedom in life without freedom with others. You will not experience freedom with others without freedom within. You cannot experience freedom within without freedom with God. You cannot have freedom with God if you insist on doing it your way instead of trusting.
For the rest of the week, we will be working our way back through the journey that we have experienced together this series. This will enable us to gain a better understanding of the progression I just described. It is by moving through that progression that we’ll find the freedom in life to make a difference in the world around us.
What is your idea/view of freedom?
Are there any areas in your life where you have been choosing your preferences and comfort over loving and serving someone else?
Go out of your way to serve someone this week. Journal about the experience and the impact it had on you. Attend GrowthTrack if you haven’t already.
Dear Lord, forgive me for so often seeking a made-up version of freedom that actually puts me as my own master. It is through loving others as you have loved me that I will find true freedom. Help me to love others as you have loved me. I trust you, Jesus, to lead me to a place where I can experience the freedom you truly have for me in this life. Amen.
This post was written by Alex Woody. Alex is the Director of Students at the West Toledo Campus of CedarCreek Church. He has an amazing wife and two joy-filled daughters who can regularly be found filling the West Toledo lobby with laughter and smiles.
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